Alright, here we go again! The title says this is free travel #4, but that’s not quite accurate. This is the fourth free(ish) trip across the Atlantic and back, but my girlfriend and I also enjoyed flying American transcontinental first class this summer for $5.60 per person (you can read about that a bit here). We also flew NYC-CLT for free, if my memory serves me. Domestic flights are usually a waste of miles, but in that case, it made sense (American miles are nearly worthless when attempting transatlantic travel.) But as for this trip…
I’d built up about 8,000 miles with Delta, partly from traveling. I had probably also taken advantage of a promotion with them along the way, and definitely had several thousand miles because Hertz awards Delta SkyMiles for each car rental. You can also read about how I got 3,000 miles by eating out three times last summer. 8k ain’t nothing, but wasn’t nearly enough for even a one-way ticket.
However, I’d also signed up for the Amex Business Gold card in March (I write this in October). The sign-up-bonus I was targeted for then was 75,000 points, which could be transferred as miles to Delta Airlines. I transferred to Delta the 15,000 miles I had left over (having spent 60k on this free trip). At this point, I had 23,000 miles. Still not enough.
Luckily, I’ve begun booking Airbnb reservations through deltaairbnb.com, a little-discussed portal that awards 3 miles per dollar spent on Airbnb. Because I rarely stay in hotels and had booked lots of Airbnb stays for a monthlong summer trip, I had built up a few thousand extra miles. At this point (somewhere in June) I also referred a family member to a limited time offer with American Express. He was able to get a new Delta Amex with a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus, and I, in return, was awarded 10,000 miles. My tally then stood at 35,000.
My own sign-up bonus for that card was 60,000 miles, bringing my tally up to 100,000 (which includes miles earned through manufactured spending). 100k is more than enough for three one-way trips across the Atlantic. Not bad! The Delta Amex will charge a fee a year after the opening date, but I will have canceled it by then.
Now the story gets simple and redundant. I used 65,000 miles to book an NYC-AMS roundtrip ticket. The surcharge was $75, which was offset by the Delta Amex $50 fee credit. In total, these flights cost $25. That’s pretty great. Because Delta is partners with Virgin, I flew from NYC to Manchester with Virgin Atlantic: it was a great economy experience, unmatched by any of the US carriers. It was the only economy flight I’ve taken that offered free cocktails (not just beer and wine), a hot towel service, and an actual menu.
At JFK airport in New York, I enjoyed the Wingtips lounge for free, a perk of having the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Premium WiFi was free there as well, thanks to the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card, which offers free Boingo WiFi membership. You can read the lounge review here.
In Manchester, I had coffee and breakfast in the Escape lounge, accessed for free the same way. My review of that lounge is here!
The cheapest flight available on the day of booking was $570. At a value of just $0.01/mile, this trip was nothing special and mediocre at best (in terms of redemption value). That said, I didn’t have the luxury of spending $570 in real money (it went to the Roth IRA), and I knew that I needed this exact flight plan. Any cheaper, and it would have been hard to justify. But if you have points and no money, spend the points!